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Features, Objects, and other Things: Ontological Distinctions in the Geographic Domain

  • David M. Mark
  • André Skupin
  • Barry Smith
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 2205)

Abstract

Two hundred and sixty-three subjects each gave examples for one of five geographic categories: geographic features, geographic objects, geographic concepts, something geographic, and something that could be portrayed on a map. The frequencies of various responses were significantly different, indicating that the basic ontological terms feature, object, etc., are not interchangeable but carry different meanings when combined with adjectives indicating geographic or mappable. For all of the test phrases involving geographic, responses were predominantly natural features such as mountain, river, lake, ocean, hill. Artificial geographic features such as town and city were listed hardly at all for geographic categories, an outcome that contrasts sharply with the disciplinary self-understanding of academic geography. However, geographic artifacts and fiat objects, such as roads, cities, boundaries, countries, and states, were frequently listed by the subjects responding to the phrase something that could be portrayed on a map. In this paper, we present the results of these experiments in visual form, and provide interpretations and implications for further research.

Keywords

Geographic ontology geographic categories prototypes spatial cognition mereotopology human subjects testing spatialization self-organizing maps geographic information systems GIS 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. Mark
    • 1
  • André Skupin
    • 2
  • Barry Smith
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeographyNCGIA and Center for Cognitive Science University at BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of New OrleansNew OrleansUSA
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyNCGIA and Center for Cognitive Science University at BuffaloBuffaloUSA

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